Tuesday, February 23, 2010

An Indwelling God and a Sojourning Community

In Colossians Remixed the authors tell the story of Nympha*, a prominent woman of the Roman Empire who gets introduced to the community of people known as Christians at Colossae. She comes to realize the revolutionary nature of this community. Their
hope was rooted in the memory of Jesus – a memory they kept alive with an astounding meal. At this meal none appeared to be superior to the other. All received equal portions of bread and wine, and none went without. I was amazed at the love they had for one another and for this Jesus they worshiped.
What also astonished me was how they saw their actions as a prophetic witness against the rule of Caesar. They knew that their actions, the way they embodied their faith together in their community, challenged all that Roman society held dear. They spoke of themselves as a new family, new humanity, those who had left darkness for light, who were now bringing, through their small house meetings, nothing less than reconciliation for the whole world. They saw themselves as a living embodiment of the forgiveness and healing Jesus had brought for the world.
I went away deeply disturbed and wrestling with what the worship of Jesus would mean for my life. These Christians had such a comprehensive vision, but following Jesus would come at a high cost for me. Living such a life would mean ceasing to be a benefactor for the emperor cult, giving up my position as provider of wheat and oxen for the imperial festivals, purging my house of all that bore the image of Caesar and his victories. It would mean ceasing to participate in the imperial festivals and games. It would mean refusing to participate in the give-and-take of benefactor and client, bestowing monetary and social favours on those who sang my praises and danced attendance on me. It would mean distancing myself from the communities and societies that had given my life meaning.#

I like to believe that people visiting our community of faith would have similar reactions. But would they? Would they see that we are a community with a hope rooted in Jesus? Would they be amazed at our love for one another and for Jesus? Would they see that our actions are a prophetic witness against all that our consumerist society holds dear? Would they see that we embody the forgiveness and healing brought by Jesus? Would they see us as a people wrestling with what worship of Jesus means for our lives? Would they see us as a people who have paid a high cost? I pray that they might.

*Colossians 4:15.

#Walsh, Brian J and Keesmaat, Sylvia C. Colossians Remixed: Subverting the Empire. Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004, p. 56.

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